“Student Voice” and governmentality: the production of enterprising subjects?

Bragg, Sara (2007). “Student Voice” and governmentality: the production of enterprising subjects? Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 28(3) pp. 343–358.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300701458905


‘Student voice’ is now taking a more central role in educational policy, guidance and thinking. As it does so, however, it becomes less clear how to interpret it: it can perhaps no longer be seen as a radical gesture that will necessarily challenge educational hierarchies. Drawing on qualitative research into one student participation project, ‘Students as Researchers’, the article explores how far Foucauldian concepts of governmentality may offer a more sophisticated understanding of the power relations embedded in student voice initiatives. From this perspective, for instance, such projects may be read as attempts to instill norms of individualism, self-reliance and self-management, which resonate with new configurations of power and authority under neo-liberalism, respond to specific debates about school standards, effectiveness and competition, and help construct young people as reflexive ‘knowledge workers’. Whilst a governmentality perspective does not preclude acknowledging the positive effects of participation projects, it does draw attention to their complexities, such as the new value hierarchies and exclusions they may create, problematising particular groups of young people and limiting possibilities for resistance.

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